Uhuru versus Ruto: Who has the numbers in Parliament

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and his deputy William Ruto. Their allies are engaging in a popularity contest. PHOTO | JONAH MWANGI | DPPS

What you need to know:

  • But associates of the DP are quick to dispute the 50/50 strength in the National Assembly on claims that the former URP has significantly penetrated the formerly TNA zones.
  • Even in Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard, TNA constituencies in Nakuru County alone registered over 200,000 voters than Ruto’s Uasin Gishu backyard.

After months of exchanging barbs in public rallies and on Twitter, rivals in the ruling Jubilee Party christened Kieleweke, who are aligned to President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Tangatanga, leaning to deputy William Ruto, were bound to flex muscles to know who has the numbers.

The first shot came with the impeachment of former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who is aligned to the DP’s camp.

On the D-Day, both camps were bragging to have the numbers within Jubilee stable. But it turned out the side leaning to the president had an extra hidden card in a deal with the opposition, thanks to the “handshake”.

Come the hour of reckoning and the besieged governor didn’t know what hit him, as he found himself under the bus.

The next contest came last week when the president’s side finally effected changes in the Jubilee leadership against spirited opposition from the DP’s camp.

When names in the new line-up of the party’s management committee were handed to the Registrar of Political Parties three weeks ago, the DP mobilised his troops to petition the registrar not to effect the changes which he termed “fraudulent”.

Later he tweeted that 146 Jubilee MPs from both Houses (National Assembly and Senate), or about 70 per cent of the total in the party ranks, had sent objections to the registrar.

NUMBERS GAME

Buoyed by the temporary victory, Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General and Ruto lead spear-carrier, Soy MP Caleb Kositany, boasted his side has the majority and will be proceeding to the next move: to unilaterally convene parliamentary group meeting and “takeover the party”.

Apparently, the president’s men aren’t taking it lying down. In a conversation with the Sunday Nation on Wednesday, the party’s vice-chairman - David Murathe - challenged the DP’s side to “go ahead and takeover the party if they can”, but said without elaborating that “soon they will be hearing from us and it will be a thunderstorm!”

At the same time, Mr Murathe disputed the figure of 146 MPs the DP claimed had sent objections to the Registrar of Political Parties, which he termed “the work of forgery”.

He said: “People are known by names. The DP should have published names and signatures so that we actually know who is with us and who is against us”.

Who is fooling who? Political scientist and university don Amukowa Angangwe says that with each side likely to “manufacture” its own figures and tout them as gospel truth, the best and reliable point of reference is the voter register, prevailing roll-call of MPs and proven voter patterns and trends.

In that instance, he says, while it would be fair to each of the Jubilee rivals to say they are neck-to-neck on numbers in both Houses of parliament, in terms of numbers on the ground, the president’s side is head and shoulders ahead of their rivals going by the 2017 and 2013 voter register and known voting patterns.

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Let’s first look at the roll-call in parliament. Of the two Houses, the National Assembly — or the senior of the two as it keeps reminding the other — is best indicator of who has what strength.

Jubilee, the offshoot of the president’s TNA, Ruto’s URP and 11 other small parties have combined total strength of 171 MPs.

ODM follows with 76 MPs, Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper 23 MPs, and Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC 14 MPs. Moses Wetang'ula’s Ford Kenya has 12, Gideon Moi’s Kanu 10, while 14 MPs came in as independents.

So if one is equally generous to the protagonists, Kieleweke and Tangatanga, both are ahead of the pack with 85 MPs each.

The half/half statistic is given credence by the 2013 tally, where TNA and URP were listed as separate entities in the parliamentary tally. TNA chalked up 71 MPs and URP 60.

The difference from the total of 171 in the 2017 tally is explained by coming in of the 11 small parties and inroads combined Jubilee made in the opposition zones in the last election.

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But associates of the DP are quick to dispute the 50/50 strength in the National Assembly on claims that the former URP has significantly penetrated the formerly TNA zones, more so the Mount Kenya region. But Mr Murathe, Uhuru's ally, dismisses that as “wishful thinking”.

He says that having a handful of MPs from Mount Kenya region follow the DP wherever he goes on weekends, or appending signatures where he tells them to, is by no means to say he has penetrated the region.

Again, he says, it is fair to drop names and not hide behind generalisations. In Kiambu, only Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung'wa is with the DP, says Mr Murathe.

“In Murang’a, it is only Kiharu’s Ndindi Nyoro and Kigumo’s Alice Wahome on his tow. And in Nyeri, there is only Mathira’s Rigathi Gachagua, and in Nyandarua and Kirinyaga, only the woman reps, Faith Gitau and Purity Ngirichi, respectively, are with him. That is only seven out of 38 MPs in Central Kenya.”

The president’s camp has also been quick to point out that given the short-shelf life of elected leaders in Mount Kenya, it would be pointless for the DP to gauge his support in the area on a number of MPs he has under wraps, as none may be re-elected in 2022.

Of the eight governors and eight senators elected in Mount Kenya in 2013, only two governors and a senator made it back in 2017. And of the 33 MPs elected in 2013 in central Kenya, only seven made it back in 2017.

VOTER REGISTER

In Kirinyaga, all four MPs were sent packing, while in Murang’a, with seven MPs, Nyeri with six and Nyandarua five, only a single MP came back in each of the counties, while in Kiambu, only four of the 11 MPs made a come back.

Only two of the five Woman reps in the former central province were returned, while in Nyeri, all MCAs were sent packing and the same fate for upwards of 70 per cent MCAs in the other four counties.

While the president and his deputy tallies could be neck-to-neck and too close to call in parliament, the president's backyards are far ahead in terms of registered voters, going by both 2017 and 2013 IEBC registers.

For instance, Uhuru’s Kiambu backyard had 1.18 million registered voters in 2017, which is more than the 1.17 million registered in Ruto’s three topmost strongholds of Uasin Gishu (450,055), Kericho (375,668) and Nandi (346,007).

While Kiambu, with more votes, gave Uhuru 11 MPs, Ruto’s three best strongholds with lesser voters gave him 18 MPs.

It precisely explains why Uhuru/Ruto MPs tallies could be close, in marked contrast to the huge difference in voter numbers in their respective backyards.

That is best illustrated in the 2013 voter register, where Uhuru and Ruto MPs were separately voted in as TNA or URP.

For instance, six URP constituencies — Mandera East, Mandera South, Saku, Fafi, Banissa, and Wajir East — had combined total of about 145,000 registered voters, less than those in each of Uhuru’s two lead constituencies, Ruiru with over 159, 000 voters and Thika Town with over 147,000 voters.

VOTING BLOCS

Even in Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard, TNA constituencies in Nakuru County alone registered over 200,000 voters than Ruto’s Uasin Gishu backyard.

In 2017, Uhuru’s strongholds of Mount Kenya, Laikipia/Nakuru diaspora, and half Nairobi registered 6.33 million voters, compared to 1.91 million in Ruto’s lead strongholds in north Rift (Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet, and Nandi), and central/south Rift (Baringo, Kericho and Bomet).

Even were one to be over generous to Ruto and give him all the votes registered in Jubilee zones in 2017, he would still be behind Uhuru tally by over two million votes.

An interesting arithmetic for Jubilee rivals is what happens in parliament in light of new “alliances” and voting blocs as happened in the case of Waititu’s impeachment motion when Uhuru forces ganged up with opposition ODM to “fix” Ruto.

Let’s have a look at the numbers: Uhuru’s share of 85 MPs added to ODMs 75 — that is minus Malindi ODM’s Aisha Jumwa, who long defected to Ruto camp — would make a bloc of 160.

If you throw in Kanu’s 12, and half of the independents (7), that shores the number to 179. And if Kalonzo were to be predictable and stay with Uhuru/Raila line-up, that would make a solid bloc of 202 MPs.

The number would be way above the 175 needed to constitute simple majority in the National Assembly, and only 31 MPs short of the 233 required to make two-thirds majority.

On the other hand, Ruto’s 85, his half share of seven independents, and Musalia’s 14 would give him a bloc of 106. If Wetangula’s 12 MPs were to come on board, he would chalk up a 118 member voting machine — far behind the 202 in the rival camp.

STRONGHOLDS

A combined Uhuru/Raila alliance would have similar sweeping impact on the ground. From the 2017 voter register, Raila/ODM strongholds of Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Busia, Kisii, Nyamira, half Kakamega, and half Nairobi registered over 4.4 million votes.

Added to the about 6.3 million in Uhuru strongholds would give the bloc over 10.7 million votes, which is comfortably over 50 per cent of the total 19.6 million national tally.

That would explain why President Kenyatta and his “handshake” partner Raila are upbeat they can successfully steer their baby, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), past a referendum vote.

But as far as 2022 presidential poll is concerned, three factors will come into play. First is what government structure BBI and subsequent referendum come up with, and what rival formations face off in the ballot.

Last, but important, is the role President Kenyatta’s plays in post 2022 dispensation and which, to a great extent, will determine who runs away with the ultimate prize in the presidential ballot.

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